Disclaimer: I don't own Hey Arnold or it characters
An elderly woman, who just turned 70, arrives at the Brooklyn airport from her permanent residence in Cleveland, Ohio for the past 52 years. Her white hair is up in a bun. It used to be blonde many years ago. She adjusts her thick glasses to read a sign from the terminal. But she has trouble focusing on the sign, even though her blue eyes are still bright, as if they wouldn't need glasses.
"Criminey! It's getting harder to read anything these days." She mutters to herself. After a few moments of trying to read the sign, she gives up out of frustration.
She adjusts her gray shawl. She's slightly overweight, wearing a worn out outfit, consisting of an ankle length grayish plain skirt and a light blue blouse. She begins to walk very slowly down the terminal, with her back bent from years of wear. Many people pass her by with a concern look, thinking she may need help, but proceed to pass her anyway.
"Hey Granny!" Two pre teen kids mock her. "You need Gerotol if you're going to keep up with us!" They laugh very hard, as they walk away from her, since the kids know they have the upper hand over the frail, old lady.
"Come back here you little whippersnappers so I can deck you!" The elderly woman shouts in vain, as she shakes her fist at the kids.
But the kids are long gone down the terminal, as she hears their laughter die in the distance.
As she finally arrives outside the airport to the taxi stands, she slowly walks to the first cab and gets in. The cab driver does a double take and tries to control his laughter.
"Where you heading, Grandma?"
Her temper hasn't changed, as she's about to lash out at the cab driver. But she feels a little weak from the momentary rise of anger. She sighs in the process, while she shakes her head in disbelief.
"Just take me to the Sunset Arms boarding house on Vine Street." She bitterly says.
The cab driver becomes quiet for a moment, but he immediately turns around, facing her with surprise and doubt.
"Listen, Grandma. There's no such boarding house on that part of Vine Street."
"Yes there is, you young punk." She says in defiance. "Don't you have any respect for your elders? Now take me there, immediately!"
"You must have lost plenty of brain cells, Granny." The cab driver stubbornly says. "I know that part of town very well and I'm positively certain that there's no boarding house at this address."
Even though her mind hasn't lost its edge, her frail body cannot take the abuse of a much younger person.
"Very well." She momentarily gives in to defeat. "At least you can do is take me to that address on Vine Street."
"OK Grandma, have it your way." The cab driver chuckles, as he turns around to start his cab.
After about 45 minutes of driving, the cab suddenly stops. The old woman stares from her cab window in shock and cannot believe what she sees. Instead of a boarding house, she sees a small park with a few trees, benches and a tall, white marble monument.
"What did I tell you, Granny." The cab driver says in triumph. "This park has been here for many years."
She slowly gets out of the cab, as she continues starring at the park in shock and silently pays for the fare. The cab driver shakes his head and laughs before driving away, leaving the old woman alone in front of a park she never saw before. She stares at the park for a long time. Her fear gradually rises, knowing that her dreams are being shattered, as reality stares at her defeated face. A single tear slowly runs down her wrinkle face.
"I'm…too late." She sadly says, as her head slowly drops down in despair.
She tries to picture what the boarding house looked like in its heyday. But she has a difficult time concentrating, leaving her with a memory she can't picture. She slowly walks up to the front of the park where the monument stands and notices large bold words on it. She adjusts her glasses and tries to read it. Since the letters are big, with a little difficulty, she reads the inscriptions on the monument.
THIS PARK IS DEDICATED TO
HELGA G. PATAKI
"A LOST SOUL"
She stands back in shock, clutching her chest.
"A park dedicated to me?" She says in disbelief. "What's going on?" She shouts in utter confusion. She feels exactly like the inscriptions on the monument, being a 'lost soul' and all alone. The date of the park indicates that the park has been here for 20 years.
She sighs and slowly turns around. But she suddenly runs into someone, who knocks her back and flat on the ground. She's about to shout at the person, when she notices the elderly gentleman is sitting on the ground placing his hand on his slightly deflated football shape head. The moment she saw his head, even though his once cornflower hair is now solid white, she immediately recognizes him. He slowly rises from the ground, while gazing curiously at the person he just bumped into, trying to recall why this scene is so familiar to him.
"I'm sorry, my dear." He quickly brushes himself off, while continuing to gaze at her, as if he's trying to remember if he knew her. "I haven't bumped into another person like this for many, many years. Are you all right?"
She looks at the elderly gentleman in shock. She's speechless for a long time, even though her lips are open, demanding to speak. The elderly gentleman smiles warmly at her, as his wrinkle hand extends out to help her up. She slowly takes his hand. The moment her hand touches his, she feels as if electricity has gone through her entire body, giving her a brief thrill. She's now face to face with him, as she immediately comes out of her trance.
The old man becomes very surprised at the sound of his name being called from a person he still cannot recall.
"That's my name. Who are you?"
Tears are forming around the eyes of the old woman's careworn, but wrinkle face.
"It's me, Helga! Helga G. Pataki!"
The old man cocks his head to one side, as he studies her briefly. His body suddenly becomes erect, as his green eyes light up.
"Helga! Is that really you? What happened to you, old girl?"
"I came back to see the old neighborhood one last time before I go." Helga says with a cry.
Arnold shakes his head as he softly laughs, confusing Helga for a moment.
"Phoebe was right. You did come back."
The name of her best friend brings back a flood of memories.
"Where is she?" Helga eagerly asks.
Arnold remains silent for a moment, but gravely looks deeply into her blues eyes.
"She died last year."
He sighs for a moment, while he gazes up into the sky, as if he expects Phoebe to appear from the heavens. But he silently lowers his sights back to the woman he hadn't seen for 52 years. He continues his conversation with ease to his one time bully, as if he last chatted with her yesterday.
"I respected her last request to be cremated." He turns his gaze to the park. "Her ashes were disbursed around the park."
Helga is speechless and sad, wishing she came back earlier to see her old friend.
"I'm… sorry, Arnold." Helga says with hesitation, since she couldn't think of anything else to say.
Arnold remains silent for a moment, as if he were retracing old memories.
"Phoebe and I had just celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary, when she passed away a few days later."
Helga stood in disbelief, becoming pale with the news she heard. She's speechless for a moment, but blurts out with doubt.
Arnold sighs and a warm smile appears on his face
"She was wonderful, so beautiful. She was a pillar of strength in the neighborhood, for all the kind deeds she did. She's sorely missed. I wish you could have been here to see her. We have 2 sons and 1 daughter. In fact, that's the reason why I'm waiting in the park, so I could pick up 2 of my 10 grand children."
Helga is stunned. But she slowly smiles, knowing that Phoebe had a good life and married a wonderful man.
"So…who did you marry?" Arnold asks with curiosity.
Helga's face quickly became sad and sullen, as she briefly hung her head down, wishing she could have the marital status that Arnold and Phoebe were able to have. Her head slowly rises, to gaze into the eyes of her lover, who still doesn't know that she loves him.
"I …never married." She quietly says with pain.
"Oh…I see." Arnold says, trying not to show the shock he felt. But he sighs again, recalling a moment, which is painful to recall.
"Phoebe insisted on dedicating this park to you. She really thought you would come back."
A lone tear appears on the slightly deflated Football Head, recalling a scene.
"Before she died, she was softly crying to me, asking me why you never called, visited or even write? I gently held her hand and shook my head silently, because I didn't know why you never contacted her. Even your parents and sister wouldn't tell her. She loved you very much."
Helga feels a slight ache in her heart listening to Arnold's story. She feels crushed, knowing that her dear friend suffered when she died. Helga couldn't believe what she heard. But she realizes that time doesn't stand still. Life goes on.
Arnold regains his composure, as he looks at Helga with a little annoyance.
"You know, Helga. I can't believe that your departure was on account of our argument, right after our high school graduation. We never hear anything from you. And all of a sudden, after 52 years, you finally appear. Why did you wait so long before coming back?"
Helga begins to recall the incident when they argued and immediately slips on her bully mask.
"You were trying to run my life. I had already made plans to attend Columbia U and you didn't want me to go. But you wouldn't tell me why? It was your fault."
Arnold's mannerism has always been mild and mellow. But when push comes to shove, he retaliates.
"You don't even remember the reason why we argued in the first place. The reason we were arguing, is because you saw me talking to Lila and she kissed me on the cheek. She was saying good bye before departing to USC. She was leaving the next day. You became angry of that encounter and told me that you never wanted to see me again, as you stormed off. I don't know why you were angry with what I was doing with Lila. I mean, what did you care what I did with my life? You sure have a mean temper."
Suddenly, Helga feels a sharp pain in her chest. She breaks off the argument with Arnold.
"Please, Arnold. What's done is done. That's all in the past and there's nothing we can do about it now."
The pain is slowly increasing. Helga knew time is running out. This is her last chance to confess to Arnold. She steadies herself, as she gazes at her secret lover, ready to confess.
"Arnold, I have something really important to tell you. I'm sorry I waited this long. But I want you to know, before it's too late."
Arnold stares at Helga in confusion, since he doesn't know what she's talking about.
"OK Helga, what is it?"
Helga steadies herself, to make the most important speech of her life.
But her breath is taken away from her, as she clutches her chest, while she slowly falls to the ground. As she lies on the ground fighting for her life, she looks up at Arnold with her arms reaching upward. She continues to try to utter those 4 words. But she cannot say anything, since the breath of life is fading away. Her arms fall to her side, as she stops breathing. Her eyes slowly close, while her head slowly tilts to the side. Arnold, in confusion, looks down at Helga.
"Helga, this is no time to go to sleep. What were you trying to tell me?"
He bends down and gently shakes Helga.
"Helga wake up, wake up, wake up…"
"Helga please wake up!" Arnold cries, as he holds Helga's hand.
Suddenly, Helga sits up from her cot. At first she's a little disoriented, since she doesn't know why she's sitting on a small cot. But slowly, she recognizes the small room of the school nurse's office. She quickly looks at herself to make sure she's a little girl, becoming very happy in what she finds.
"I'm not an old woman!" Helga says excitedly.
"Of course not, my dear. You're only 9 years old." The nurse smiles with support. But she thinks deeply, as to why Helga would make that comment.
"Helga! Are you all right?" Says an anxious, but very happy Arnold.
"Of course she's all right, young man." The nurse says, with encouragement. "She has a bump on her head, but otherwise she's perfectly healthy."
"I didn't know if you were going to be all right after I ran into you. Your head hit the floor when you fell and you lost consciousness. I had to carry you to the nurses office." Arnold says with relief.
Helga slowly places her hand on her head, as she feels a dull pain appear on the side of her head, making her a little dizzy.
"Yeah I'm fine, Football Head. But I'm a little weak." Helga slowly says, as she gathers her thoughts. "I think I better go home, so I can rest. I had this very strange dream."
"Can I escort her home?" Arnold asks the nurse, as a sly grin appears on his face.
"That's a good idea." The nurse warmly replies. "Why don't you get her ready, so she can leave as soon as possible."
The nurse smiles at Arnold and winks at him. Arnold acknowledges the wink and warmly smiles, knowing what she meant. Helga watches this encounter confused. But she lets the matter slide.
Arnold carefully helps Helga off the cot and prepares her for the trip home. He gently holds her arm, as he escorts her out of the nurse's office, down the hall and out of the school. Helga is smiling brightly in pure bliss, knowing that Arnold is escorting her. Once they leave the school building, Arnold continues to hold her arm, to give her support. Helga immediately goes into her bully mode and pushes Arnold's hand off her arm.
"Don't get so cozy with me, Arnoldo."
Arnold steps back from Helga, to give her space. But feels a twinge of disappointment, since he thought she's finally showing her soft side.
Helga senses his disappointment and remembers with horror, her dream. She realizes that she's going through the same routine of mistreating Arnold. She becomes very afraid that if she continues behaving the same way and doesn't confess her love to him, then the dream would come true. Helga nervously stops Arnold.
"Wait Arnold! There's something I need to tell you!"
Helga is motionless, as she watches Arnold in silence. She knows exactly what she wants to say to him, but hesitates with fear. She then begins to shuffle her feet to buy for time, but she still cannot utter the 4 words that her heart want to say to her muse. Arnold is watching, but he has a warm smile on his face, confusing her for a minute. Finally, Helga slowly says with uncertainty.
But before she says anything else, Arnold politely intervenes.
"What you're trying to say, is that you love me."
Helga is stunned. Her color is draining from her body and she feels like she's about to fall to the ground, because her legs are so weak. She couldn't hide her reaction from Arnold, so she knew it would be useless to deny it. She finally whispers in utter confusion.
"You …you already know? How?"
Arnold smiles at Helga, as his warm green eyes gently explain to a bewildered girl.
"While you were unconscious in the nurses office, you began calling my name and saying that you love me. The nurse smiled at me and said
'She must really care about you.' "
"I blushed for a moment, but began to think about your words. I was shocked, at first. Then I remembered all the things you did for me, such as when you found my blue cap. I then realized that you did all of those things for me because you really love me."
Helga feels very happy and relieved that she told Arnold her confession. She feels like she's in heaven. But then it hit her hard…Arnold didn't say that he loves her.
"What about you, Arnold?" Helga anxiously asks, while rubbing her arm, waiting for an answer.
Arnold slowly walks to Helga, as his hand suddenly reaches out to gently hold her hand. He softly laughs.
"I'll let you know when we arrive at your house." He says with a smile.
Helga's face gradually shows her joy. She smiles back at him and prepares a comeback speech.
"OK Football Head. But it better be the 4 words that I am expecting, or you're going to have a date with Ol Betsy."
She holds up her fist in jest, since she knew she would never use it on him and he knew it. Arnold smiles, as he continues holding her hand.
"Whatever you say, Helga."
They look at each other with renew insight, knowing that a new life is beginning with each other.
"So…what was your dream about?" Arnold asks, as they begin to walk home. Helga's blue eyes light up, as she eagerly begins her story.
"Oh Arnold. I was walking from the airport and I was an old woman…"
Helga explains to Arnold about her dream, as they walk home hand in hand.